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Tired of bumping into one another at Modesto’s Trader Joe’s? Grocer finally expanding

If you’re tired of bumping into shopping carts and other shoppers at Modesto’s always cramped Trader Joe’s, get ready to stretch those elbows with abandon.

The popular specialty grocery store is expanding its Modesto location on Dale Road. The food seller will take space from its neighbors to the north and south in the Vintage Plaza retail complex to create a larger floor plan.

And that’s not the only major change coming to the busy north Modesto shopping center. There’s the pending arrival of a new national chain to the city.

Trader Joe’s Public Relations Manager Nakia Rohde confirmed that work has started on the market’s expansion which will increase the overall size of the sales floor. She said the store also will move its checkstand area to “improve our customer’s experience while shopping in their neighborhood Trader Joe’s.”

Customers who stop in the north Modesto store will notice its southern wall (with the meat and cheese refrigerated coolers) is under construction. The ceiling is also being worked on in unrelated repairs to install a new roof.

In an email response to questions about the expansion, Rohde said all work “should be complete this summer.”

Trader Joe’s grocery store in Modesto, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.
Trader Joe’s grocery store in Modesto, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

Sanders Construction President Steve Sanders, whose company built the plaza and has owned and operated it for the past 45 years, said the Trader Joe’s expansion will add about 3,700 square feet to the store, bringing it to 13,000 square feet. That is almost double the shop’s original size of 7,300 square feet when it opened in 1993.

To increase its footprint, Sanders said the store is taking over about 1,500 square feet of storage space directly to its south, between Trader Joe’s and the Lane Bryant store. On its northern edge, the grocer will cut in to take about 2,200 square feet from the Hibachi Grill Sushi & Seafood Buffet.

That Asian buffet restaurant, which has been in the same location under different names for 16 years, first as Jumbo Buffet and since 2012 as Hibachi Grill, recently closed. Restaurant representative Ivy Wang said they stopped serving in April, and are currently deciding what to do with the remaining space. That could come in the form of a new restaurant concept, but nothing has been finalized, she said.

New tenant for closed Modesto Tuesday Morning

On the other side of the buffet, the also recently closed Tuesday Morning store already has found a new tenant. The national discount home goods seller shut all of its stores after filing for bankruptcy earlier this year. The Vintage Plaza location had been open since 2017, though the chain had a store elsewhere in town since 2002.

Tuesday Morning store in Modesto, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. The national discount chain is closing its Modesto store after 21 years in business locally.
Tuesday Morning store in Modesto, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. The national discount chain is closing its Modesto store after 21 years in business locally.

Sanders said Five Below, a national discount chain known for selling items for $5 and under, will move into the space instead. The discount retailer has taken over retail spaces from other bankrupt national chains as part of its rapid growth strategy of late. The chain opened its first Stanislaus County in Turlock in 2021, in the former Pier 1 space in Monte Vista Crossings after the imports company shuttered all its stores.

The Modesto Five Below store will be the city’s first, though Sanders said there’s no timeframe for its debut yet.

Trader Joe’s, in a shopping complex that also includes The Party Guys/Grand Events!, Plato’s Closet and Big 5 Sporting Goods, will remain open during construction.

This will be the chain’s second expansion since opening in Modesto 30 years ago. In 2000, The Bee reported the popular store expanded to create wider aisles and “flow-through” checkout stands. Previously, customers had entered and exited through the same doors.

The expansion also comes after dedicated campaigns to get a second store in the area have failed. Turlock fans of the private grocery brand started a campaign to get a store in their town in 2010. And in 2019, the new local owners of Century Center at Oakdale Road and Orangeburg Avenue erected signs asking people to lobby the company to move into the east Modesto complex.

Alas, the north Modesto location remains the company’s only site in Stanislaus County.

With all the changes coming to the complex, the Modesto Trader Joe’s remains a powerhouse draw three decades after its opening — especially on the weekends — with customers often jockeying for parking spaces. And now we can expect it to be a more spacious draw for years to come, too. Sanders said the national chain recently resigned its lease for its space, since its original 30-year lease just ended.

Happy roomier shopping, Modesto.